Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)
What a way to start. The kiwi crew at Bayern Munich, Ali Riley and Sarpreet Singh, showing a few more kiwis what’s up – the NZ Men’s Sevens team, who had popped by the city for the Oktoberfest Sevens, a preseason tournament ahead of the 2018-19 World Series. There were a few pics from this day when it happened a couple weeks ago but apparently they put those cameras to further use. Top tier kiwi sportsfolk meeting on the other side of the world, aye? Those sevens fellas gotta work on their kicking though.
Then onto the weekend when Bayern travelled to Hoffenheim and Ali Riley was given her second Bundesliga start for the Bavarians, beginning things as a right wingback. And… not quite the way she wanted things to go. Bayern were uncharacteristically off their game to begin things and they fell behind after 22 minutes through… well, through an Ali Riley own goal. One of those own goals where it wasn’t really her fault though, it was a simple enough back pass which the keeper Carina Schlüter just completely misplayed. Perhaps Riley coulda kept it on the deck instead of a slightly awkward bouncing one but yeah that’s a shocker from the keeper and you know she knows it too because she kicked and punched the damn post after missing it. Imagine scoring with this…
Bayern were shaken into action by that but inspired goalkeeping and poor finishing continued to deny them. The crossbar chipped in as well. In the 55th minute Riley was subbed off as part of a double sub, sacrificed in order to get some more attacking weaponry out there. It worked and Bayern were utterly dominant in the second half. They simply couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard. More chances went begging and Bayern lost 1-0, slipping to third on the table as a result. Their second loss of the season. Curiously the men’s team also lost to Hoffenheim earlier in the month.
Up Next: BIIK Kazygurt vs Bayern Munich, Champions League R16, Wednesday at 9pm (NZT)
Abby Erceg – North Carolina Courage (American National Women’s Soccer League)
With first place wrapped up way ahead of time the Courage chose not to rest their starters last week in their final away game so it was no shocker to see them keep a strong line-up for their regular season closer at home against Sky Blue. Abby Erceg and all the rest of them. The international break took care of their rest anyway, to be fair.
However when Carli Lloyd almost punished the Courage early on for a horribly under-hit back-pass you did get the feeling that perhaps their minds were on next week. The strikepower that the Courage have meant they were able to withstand that pressure and go up the other end and score through Jess McDonald… but then a ripper of a strike from Lloyd levelled it back up after 25 minutes.
Not a great start. An upset looking possible. The Courage with a bit of a struggle on their hands here and… oh no wait then they straight up the other end and scored from a corner kick. McDonald almost nabbed it at the line but Debinha was credited with the goal. Those two then combined in the 81st minute with McDonald poking in a dragged shot from Debinha and although there was another stunning goal for Sky Blue in the 86th min, this time Dominique Richardson belting one into the top corner, the Courage went on to win it 3-2. Never mind then.
Still there was one concern as Erceg limped off injured in the middle of the second half. Seemed to be an ankle knock but she was walking around okay after the game with boots still on and no sign of excess strapping or icepacks or whatever… seems like it was probably just precautionary and nobody’s had much to say about it since so that feels like a good sign. One to stay aware of though.
The Courage end the season on 49 points, with more goals scored and fewer conceded than any other side. Their goal difference more than double the next best. Just another season for Erceg and the Courage then… now for the primetime games with Rosie White’s Reign FC in the semi-final on Monday - although White has dropped back to the bench these days with Reign getting a few of their injured stars back to fitness. She was an unused sub in a 2-2 draw away to Orlando Pride in their final game, Marta equalising in the 86th minute for the Pride (not that it made a difference to their fourth-placed finish).
But first! There’s the small matter of lifting that old NWSL Shield again. The third straight season that Abby Erceg has lifted that piece of silverware and she’ll be going for her third NWSL championship title as well, winning in 2016 (with Western New York Flash) and of course last year in 2018.
And here’s another one for the Wikipedia page…
NC Courage: “Team captain Abby Erceg was voted the recipient of the Leadership Award, given to the player who has shown consistent guidance on and off the field, as her skills were focused on keeping the backline in check. Erceg has played in every minute of 19 games. The New Zealand international has 68 clearances, 17 blocks, and 29 interceptions. She has also added one goal to her stats this season. ”
Also, erm, this…
Up Next: NWSL Semi-Final, North Carolina Courage vs Seattle Reign, Monday at 6.30am (NZT)
CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)
Oh yes, back to winning ways. Vittsjö’s Champions League dreams had been damaged by a couple poor results lately (losing 1-0 to Eskilstuna and then 2-1 to Göteborg) but a 2-0 win against Kristianstad has them on track once more. It was a pretty uneventful first half but Vitters came out feeling it in the second half, threatening basically straight away through Clara Markstedt and then again through Ebba Hed. How this game was still level in the 80th minute was a mystery but it was getting quite desperate. And you know what they say: cometh the hour, cometh the New Zealand international.
It was largely thanks to a goalkeeping error, a spilled long ball from a free kick, but with so many chances gone astray already they just needed someone to bury one and CJ Bott showed great awareness to pounce on the loose ball and then great technique and composure to manoeuvre into a shooting position and then put it away amongst the crowd. An enormous goal in the context of their season. It’s hard to even express what a crucial strike this was.
And then Michelle De Jongh added another one for fun right at the end and there you go. 2-0 and those three points don’t quite lift them back up to second, as Göteborg were able to beat Pitea 2-1 the day before, but it all but ends Kristianstad’s chances of finishing top two and keeps Vittsjö within two points of Göteborg with two games remaining. For Vittsjö it doesn’t get any easier as they probably need to beat champions in waiting Rosengård next week (and they close at home against relegation-battling Djurgården) while Göteborg face two mid-table teams with nothing left to play for. But thanks to that CJ Bott goal, her second of the season, they’re still in the hunt.
Bott also picked up a yellow card right at the end too, by the way.
Up Next: Away to Rosengård, 2am on Monday (NZT)
Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)
Just Billy T chatting about his French Connections with fellow centreback Larrys Mabiala.
Also here’s the dude chatting after last week’s 3-1 win over San Jose which booked Portland’s playoff spot. They’re away to Real Salt Lake on Sunday, one of two Flying Kiwis x MLS Playoff games in 2019. Michael Boxall’s Minnesota United being the other one of course, they host LA Galaxy and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The two are on other sides of the bracket as well so they won’t meet in the next round even if they both win – their collision course is for the Western Conference Final a week later. All ties are single-game elimination matches too, no second legs or away goals.
Sunday at 3.0pm: Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers (NZT)
Monday at 1.30pm: Minnesota vs LA Galaxy (NZT)
Up Next: See above
Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)
Up Next: See above again
Hannah Wilkinson - Sporting CP (Portuguese 1a Divisão)
She only scored once in a 17-0 win over A-dos-Francos in their previous game (coming off the bench, to be fair) so of course Wilkie was due to cash in the next time. She scored three in a 6-1 win against Ovarense, completing the hatty in stoppage time just after Ovarense had pulled back a consolation goal. Oh and Wilkinson also kinda got the assists for the first and third goals too. So to recap that’s a hat-trick to go with two assists in a 6-1 win. The first goal a slick finish past an onrushing keeper that just crossed the line before the defender could get to it, the second a simple tap in from literally about fifteen centimetres out, the third a slick header running in behind the defence. Excellent.
Pretty convincing win, safe to say. Sporting have a +23 goal difference from their perfect three from three start to the season… although it gets a lot tougher next time as they face fellow perfect starters Benfica – whose goal difference reads +38 after only three games so… yeah. Early days in the season but that one will have title ramifications.
And now for a lovely song…
Up Next: Benfica vs Sporting, 5am on Sunday (NZT)
Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)
Bordeaux had such a fantastic start to the season but after losing in an expected fashion to PSG before the international break they’ve come back out and dropped one at home versus Guingamp in their first genuinely disappointing result of the new campaign.
It had started fantastically with FCGB taking a seventeenth minute lead after a great run by Emelyne Laurent led to Khadija Shaw nodding in for her fifth goal in five games. And it continued on pretty well with Laurent hitting the frame of the goal after another surging run and Shaw having a couple opportunities to give it a whack and draw a save. But a little sloppy marking in the penalty area allowed Alison Peniguel to level it up in the 62nd minute with a lovely finish before Louise Fleury lobbed one into the top corner a couple minutes later from a similar area.
Bordeaux still had plenty of time to get find an equaliser but weren’t able to. Nothing Erin Nayler could have done for either of those goals but to concede twice in three minutes like that, in a game they’d had in control in the first half, will have been frustrating. 2-1 to Guingamp, and Bordeaux drop a spot to fourth on the ladder.
Up Next: Sunday at 1.30am at home vs Olympic Marseille (NZT)
Katie Bowen – Utah Royals (American National Women’s Soccer League)
Utah had already missed the playoffs after four successive defeats but they had one last chance to finish the season on a high with a homer against Houston Dash to close it out. But unfortunately it was another one like the previous two games where Katie Bowen was put on the bench. Utah have struggled for goals most of the season, particularly while Christen Press was away with USA, and as things got desperate over the final month the coach opted for the extra attacking threat of Gunny Jónsdóttir at right back instead.
They won though. And Bowen was an 82nd minute substitution, the second sub off the bench as Utah looked to consolidate their lead. Having come out firing with plenty of purpose, Utah took the lead through Christen Press in just the third minute and then twenty minutes later Amy Rodriguez (Katie Bowen’s roommate, by the way) doubled that lead with a sharp striker’s finish. Utah continued to dominate the run of play and had a few chances in that second half to really end this thing. Katie Stengel’s shot off the crossbar most of all. But Kristen Mewis’ goal in the 78th minute to make it 2-1 was probably a good thing because it meant Bowen was needed off the bench for a little extra force in the midfield. Utah held on for the 2-1 victory and they end their season in sixth place, behind Washington Spirit only on goal difference and four points off the playoffs.
Katie Bowen finishes the season with 19 games played (17 of them starts) adding up to 1504 total minutes. She attempted 744 passes at a success rate of 72.8% in 2019 and had 14 key passes, although no assists. Only 28 attempted crosses as well which was a reflection of her role not really letting her overlap. No goals from six shots (two on target). One yellow card from 10 fouls. 52 defensive clearances. It’s all on the NWSL website – they sure love their stats in the USA. Even after the drop to the bench at the end there it was still Bowen’s most prominent season in the NWSL and she’d have played more too but for the World Cup.
Up Next: That long, dreaded offseason… Footy Ferns got any games coming up?
Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)
Nothing much to see here. Just Steven Old and his Shrimps losing 2-1 at home to Bradford City, conceding just after the second half began and then again with a dozen minutes left (scoring one of their own in injury time as consolation). Old nearly equalised while it was still 1-0 but couldn’t get an awkward header on target. The defeat drops Morecambe to last on the League Two tab with Stevanage and Scunthorpe both winning. It’s not been great, folks.
Up Next: Away to Colchester, Sunday at 3am (NZT)
Ria Percival – Tottenham Hotspur (English Super League)
Difficult one here for Spurs, they were up against their fellow promoted team Manchester United. Both of these teams have made positive starts to their top flight existences but Man Utd saved their big breakout performance for right here. Right from the start they were on top and it was incredible how they weren’t able to score from an early goalmouth scramble which included Lauren James hitting the post and Hannah Godfrey clearing one off the line.
Ria Percival was picked at right back again here and that meant dealing with Leah Galton, and it was her attacking run that led to the first goal. Percival was able to shift her back inside but then a couple blocked shots and Karen Hanson had given United the lead in the 13th minute with an effort that caught a deflection off a scrambling Ria Percival. Not quite able to withstand the pressure.
It wouldn’t be until the second half that the second was scored though. Again it came from a run down the right side of Spurs’ defence (coming from a counter attack with Percy stranded all the way by the corner flag up the other end having won and taken an attacking throw in) and this time Ashley Neville put the ball into her own net sliding to cut out the cross. Lauren James would be sent off for United for a second yellow late on but there was just enough time remaining for Jane Ross to make it three off the bench.
3-0 to United then. A bit of a dud game from Tottenham but next up they get a second crack in three games at Percival’s old club West Ham, who they beat 2-0 at the end of last month. This time in the Continental Cup group stage.
Up Next: West Ham vs Spurs, 3am on Monday in the WSL Cup (NZT)
Olivia Chance – Bristol City (English Super League)
‘Twas back to the bench for Olivia Chance, having started in the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea and the Conti Cup win over London Bees before it in Bristol City’s past two games. But Georgia Wilson was recalled for the game against Liverpool, with BCFC out there trying to get their first win of the season against a team that had lost its opening three. And for a good while there it was looking like it might happen after Ebony Salmon did the whole cross/shot thing which floated into the top corner. Her full debut for the club too and she nearly added a second soon after.
But Liverpool stuck around and began to make a few things happen themselves. Not quite quarter of an hour into the second half, Chance was called upon (replacing Wilson) to add a little something extra to that midfield. Yet it was Liverpool making most of the running and they finally got level in the 72nd minute after Rinsola Babajide was fouled by a sliding Loren Dykes and Mel Lawley was flawless from the spot. 1-1 was the way it ended which at least keeps BCFC from slipping down the table any further but that first league win will have to wait.
Up Next: More Conti Cup, this time away to Brighton on Monday at 2am (NZT)
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